Skip to content

Europa League Preview: FC Basel v. Chelsea

Apr 25, 2013, 12:20 PM EDT

Chelsea add Egyptian winger Mohammed Salah. Getty Images

When Chelsea head to St. Jakob’s Park to take on FC Basel in the first-leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, it will mark the first competitive encounter between the two clubs.

How They Got There

Basel made it to the semi-final stage after eliminating Tottenham 4-1 on penalties after a second leg 2-2 draw left the teams locked 4-4 on aggregate. The feat took the Swiss side’s record against English clubs to three wins, seven draws and eight loses, with all three victories coming on home soil. And it’s no secret that home fixtures are where the RotBlau thrive. Since the start of the group stage Basel have gone unbeaten in their last six Europa League contests at St. Jakob’s Park.

Chelsea qualified for the last four with a 5-4 aggregate win over Rubin Kazan. The Blues only previous encounter with Swiss opponents was a loss at the hands of FC St. Gallen in the first round of the 2000-01 UEFA Cup. After Chelsea managed a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, the Blues couldn’t handle the rigors of Zurich’s Hardturm Stadium and lost 2-0. This season, the road has been equally unkind to Rafa Benitez’ men who have lost four of their past five European away games.

What’s On The Line

Having entered the competition in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, Basel has played more European matches this season (18) than any other remaining club. With a win on Thursday, Murat Yakin’s side, who have won three straight domestic titles, will become the first Swiss club to reach a European final.

Along with Benfica, Chelsea are the only side left in the Europa League that entered the competition after crashing out of the Champions League group stage. A win on Thursday will be a key step in Chelsea’s bid to become the first side to win the Champions League and Europa League in reverse order in consecutive seasons.

Key Matchups

The first matchup likely to have an affect on the outcome is between Chelsea striker Fernando Torres and Basel center-back Alexander Dragovic.

Torres, along with Basel’s Marco Streller and Benfica’s Óscar Cardozo, leads the competition in goals scored with four apiece. The Chelsea hitman has scored three goals in his last two Europa League competitions, the second being a dominant brace emblematic of the Spaniard’s new found confidence. Since donning the black face protector – which Torres claims is very uncomfortable – the striker has looked lighter on his feet, been more decisive in his decision making and shown an aerial dominance for which he is not typically known.

It’s a combination that Dragovic will be tasked to contain. The 6′ 1″ center-back is well known for his powerful style, which should make for a good physical battle with Torres. The Spaniard is never afraid to get his socks dirty but will likely be more inclined to use his pace to get around Dragovic, rather than blasting through him. While physically imposing, Dragovic is hardly a brute as he possesses a slick range of passes that has attracted the likes of various Premier League clubs including Arsenal. The Austrian previously displayed his talents to Manchester United in last season’s Champions League where his Basel side defeated the Red Devils, preventing them from advancing out of the group stage.

The second matchup set to decide matters will feature Basel’s Mohamed Salah (pictured) and Chelsea’s Ashley Cole.

Salah is a right winger with blazing speed, cat-like balance and a slick touch. So far this term the Egyptian international has run Zenit and Tottenham ragged and also managed to score the crucial 27th minute leveler in the 2-2 draw with Spurs that sent Basel through to the semi-finals. The goal was an important feat for Salah who has been criticized for not being clinical enough in front of goal. But with more assists than any player in the competition (four), Salah possesses a wide array of weapons with which to terrorize opponents.

Cole will be the target of Salah’s trickery. The Chelsea full-back is expected to start after recovering from injury and he’ll be hoping for a clean bill of health if he is to put the clamps on the Basel winger. Whereas William Gallas and Benoît Assou-Ekotto were unable to cope with Salah, Cole is faster and smarter than both Spurs defenders. Further, Cole is a creator who is capable of getting forward and providing opportunities for his teammates. Salah, not known for his desire to get back on defense, could be in for a stamina battle if Cole decides to push hard up the flank.

Latest Posts
  1. Andros Townsend was “desperate” to tweet his biggest critic after goal vs. Italy

    Apr 1, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT

    Andros Townsend, England Andros Townsend, England

    This is a strange one: footballer admits to thinking about tweet to critic while still game in which he scored.

  2. Bayern Munich’s David Alaba has torn MCL, hopes to return for Champions League, German Cup

    Apr 1, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT

    David Alaba, Bayern Munich & Austria David Alaba, Bayern Munich & Austria

    A serious knee injury at the business end of the season? Terrible news, though Alaba hopes to return for a pair of cup finals.

  3. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Patrick Kluivert leads Curacao to second round

    Apr 1, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT

    Patrick Kluivert, Curacao Patrick Kluivert, Curacao

    The first of CONCACAF’s five WCQ rounds is complete, and there’s a world-famous name leading one Caribbean minnow into the next round.

  4. What will Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT roster look like for 2015 Gold Cup?

    Apr 1, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    USMNT, 2013 Gold Cup champions USMNT, 2013 Gold Cup champions

    The USMNT kicks off its 2015 Gold Cup campaign in 97 days. What’s the roster going to look like? Who’s the surprising “ins” and “outs”?

  5. April Fools! The top gags that actually fooled soccer fans on this day

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

    April Fools’ Day jokes — everybody’s got them, and while most aren’t funny, a few people came through with good ones today.

  6. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Player of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    One little magician has been sublime all season. He’s our consensus pick, but who do you choose?

  7. Should Eden Hazard sign for Bayern Munich? Franck Ribery thinks so…

    Apr 1, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT

    Belgium v France - International Friendly Belgium v France - International Friendly

    Ribery is a big fan of Hazard. Should the Chelsea wing-wizard replace the Frenchman at Bayern?

  8. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Coach of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT

    Southampton v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s writers select their coach of the year candidate with the end of season awards coming up fast.

  9. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Young Player of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:58 PM EDT

    We select our Young Player of the season. Do you agree with the consensus selection?

  10. Raheem Sterling turns down Liverpool deal, says he’s not “money-grabbing 20-year-old”

    Apr 1, 2015, 12:25 PM EDT

    Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Sterling has spoken out about his current contract situation. It’s fascinating stuff.

  11. PST’s Premier League award predictions: Here’s our Team of the Season

    Apr 1, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s writers pick their team of the season, so far… Agree? Disagree?

  12. Who were biggest winners, losers from USMNT’s March friendlies?

    Apr 1, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Which players did themselves the world of good in March for the U.S.? Here’s a gander.

  13. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is “ready to change.” Do we believe this?

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT

    Blatter Getty Images

    Chairman of Bayern Munich, ECA, believes Blatter is ready to change his ways.

  14. Andros Townsend silences critics after superb goal for England. Can he kick on?

    Apr 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    Spurs winger scores stunner to silence doubters. Now, can he keep it up?

  15. Transfer gossip: De Bruyne to Manchester City, Walcott to Chelsea

    Apr 1, 2015, 8:01 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Here are the latest rumors involving Premier League clubs.

  16. Euro qualifying at its midpoint: Predicting the 19 automatic qualifiers

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    David Alaba AP

    The top two teams in each group will advance, while the best third-place side will also advance.

  17. On Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley and “playing out of position”

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:26 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    As bizarre as this is to read, Michael Bradley didn’t register a single helper for the States until 2011. In the Klinsmann era, he has 12.

  18. Altidore apologizes for red card woes: “Not the type of role model I want to be”

    Mar 31, 2015, 8:07 PM EDT

    FBL-SUI-USA-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    It was out of character for Altidore, who hadn’t received a red card for club or country since he was with AZ Alkmaar in 2012.

  19. Real Madrid lands $34 million Brazilian defender Danilo from Porto

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    9c2fc3c2d0036f128d8501497dffd0ce Getty Images

    With the deal Porto have turned another big profit. See this incredible list below, as the Portuguese club giants have made close to $423 million.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment